The fur flew, but not as much this time as Port Orange City Council members gave the go-ahead to restart a feral cat trap-neuter-release program, on hold since November.
The council's action included creating a contract with the Halifax Humane Society for services.
Assistant City Manager Alan Rosen stated, “The city has now officially reinstated it’s TNR program. The main difference is that the city will be managing the program instead of (Concerned Citizens for Animal Welfare). This does not mean that CCFAW or any other cat rescue won’t be involved. Quite the contrary, we will need their help to ensure the success of the program. However, city staff will be transporting cats to and from their sterilization/vaccination appointments and keeping records of active colonies. We hope this will also help take some of the pressure off the volunteers.
Mandatory training will be required for colony caregivers, Mr. Rosen said. “The training will cover humane trapping techniques, proper care for outdoor cats, feeding while not attracting other wildlife, among other topics.”
A census of cats will be required every six months to determine whether TNR is reducing the number of cats.
Several Port Orange cat rescuers spoke up at the June 16 meeting, upset about the implication that they brought cats from other cities to be fixed on Port Orange’s dime or that they were profiting in some way. Another bone of contention was ear tip vs. microchip, especially kittens, and who would be responsible for spaying and neutering cats or kittens being fostered.
“Regarding the anger of some in the rescue community, I think it comes down to change,” Mr. Rosen said. “People have been comfortable doing something a certain way for a long time and sometimes change is hard to accept. Keep in mind we had 300 registered colonies in the city and only five people came or wrote to express their displeasure at the change. In coming up with the new program, the volunteers in our community indicated that the ordinance passed by Duval County and their Feral Freedom program was the model for the country. This is what the city attorney used in creating the new ordinance, so we are following that model.”
He added the city recognizes there has not always been the best relationship between the city and CCFAW and other cat rescue groups. But city staff believes they are implementing a system based on research and best practice with the hope CCFAW and other volunteers will join them in achieving the city’s two main goals – reducing the number of feral cats in Port Orange and doing so while being a good steward of the taxpayer dollar.
For Port Orange feral cat or TNR questions, call the Animal Control Unit office at (386) 506-5836. The voicemail is set up to go to their email addresses, so they’ll get email notification if nobody’s there to actually answer the phone.
The new TNR program will work, said Barry KuKes, HHS Community Outreach Director. “Cats stay in their own colonies and thus the only way they grow is through mating and kitten litters. If cats are altered, then they cannot grow their colony. Feral cats’ average life span is 3-5 years due to the dangers in their environment, such as predators, disease, vehicles, etc. As well, they are not vaccinated nor do they receive medical attention like a domesticated house cat. If all feral cats were altered, the population would decrease rapidly.
Neutering has helped, he said. The Redinger Clinic has performed more than 80,000 procedures since 2012.
“During this same time period, the number of animals brought into HHS went from 13,300 in 2012 to 6,800 in 2019,” Mr. KuKes said.
The City Council also recently approved a fee for animal license tags. Animal license tags are mandatory in most jurisdictions throughout the United States. They are used to identify whether a pet has had its rabies vaccination. Port Orange is now dedicating a portion of that revenue specifically to the TNR program. To license a pet, visit the customer service office in Port Orange and bring the pet's vaccination record.
For more information, call (386) 506-5720.